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Curator of Art and Social Practice

Obama Foundation, Chicago, IL

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About the Obama Foundation

At the Obama Foundation, we are guided by a core belief: that ordinary people working together can change history. Our mission is to inspire those people to take action, empower them to change their world for the better, and connect them so they can achieve more together than they can alone.

We were founded by community organizers, so when we seek change, we do it by bringing people together. 

That approach begins at home, on the South Side of Chicago, where we are building the Obama Presidential Center. The Center represents a historic opportunity for Chicago: a chance to build a world-class museum and public gathering space that celebrates our nation’s first African American President and First Lady, steps away from where he began his career, where she was raised, and where—together—they made their home. 

But that approach extends to all our work, whether it’s holding leadership training sessions in communities throughout the U.S., bringing local leaders together in countries around the world, working to support the global education of girls, or ensuring young men of color have pathways to opportunity.

As President Obama has said, “we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together.” So join us. 

For more information, please visit www.obama.org.

About the Role

As a member of the OPC Museum team, the Curator of Art and Social Practice is responsible for developing and implementing a comprehensive plan for art at the Obama Presidential Center (OPC), and for curating and delivering art exhibitions, temporary installations, and artist-led projects both at the OPC and in the wider community. Prior to the OPC opening, the Curator of Art and Social Practice will develop and coordinate a range of art and social practice projects in the community, including partnerships with peer institutions, artists, and community organizations. During this project phase the Curator of Art and Social Practice will also provide exceptional project management for the inaugural art installations across the OPC campus, in conjunction with an external art advisor. Once the OPC opens, the Curator of Art and Social Practice will be responsible for curating a broad range of interdisciplinary art projects on an ongoing basis, including projects for the special exhibitions gallery, temporary art installations and activations in the OPC buildings and landscape, and offsite projects and partnerships. Alongside the Museum Director, Deputy Director, and Associate Curator for Collections, the Curator of Art and Social Practice will work to build meaningful partnerships with community organizations and peer institutions locally, nationally, and internationally. The Curator of Art and Social Practice may also represent the Obama Foundation and the OPC for external communications about the OPC’s art program. This position will report to the OPC Museum Deputy Director.

Outcomes

The Curator of Art and Social Practice will be responsible for achieving the following outcomes within the first six weeks:

  • Building a draft calendar, workplan, and budget for all art projects taking place prior to the OPC’s opening — including art activations at the groundbreaking and grand opening events, at the OPC’s construction site, and at off-site locations in the community
  • Developing an Inaugural Art Project Plan and Budget for inaugural art installations at the OPC, in consultation with OPC Museum Deputy Director, architects, design and construction team, and the art consultant, that meets the goals of the project, ensures alignment with the architectural design and construction schedule, and works within financial constraints. Plan shall include a project timeline and schedule of key milestones as well as a detailed budget

On an ongoing basis, the Curator of Art and Social Practice is responsible for:

  • Effectively managing the Inaugural Art Project Plan and Budget for the duration of the project, in close coordination with the art consultant, artists, architects, and construction team:
    • Ensure that all milestones are achieved on time and on budget, contracts and payments are tracked, and all project files are complete and accurate.
    • Plan and effectively coordinate ongoing meetings and activities necessary to manage the project to meet milestones and deliverables.
    • Closely coordinate all technical and logistical aspects of art fabrication and installation with the artists, art consultant, architects, and members of the construction team. 
    • Coordinate all accessioning and registration activities related to the art commissions with OPC’s collections team and ensure that all artworks are accessioned in compliance with the Foundation’s Collections Management Policy.
    • Provide ongoing project updates to the project leadership team, including the OPC Museum Director and Deputy Museum Director, and notify them when there are delays, areas where the budget is or may be exceeded, or any other issues or concerns related to the implementation of the Art Project.
  • Creating compelling and accurate presentations, memos, and other communication materials related to the art at the OPC for donors and other key stakeholders as needed to further the goals of the project. 
  • Writing and editing compelling and accurate curatorial content about OPC art projects for use on signage, website, and other uses as needed. 
  • At least 18 months prior to the OPC’s public opening, will deliver a proposed art and social practice curatorial calendar, workplan and budget for temporary exhibitions, art installations, and artist projects at the OPC and at offsite locations in its first three years.
  • Providing “surge” capacity as needed to support essential events, meetings, and processes.
  • Participating in Foundation-wide working groups and other initiatives as required.

Responsibilities

The ultimate aim of the Curator of Art and Social Practice is to achieve the outcomes listed above. In order to achieve those outcomes, we imagine that the Curator of Art and Social Practice will spend their time in the following ways:

  • Evaluating and conducting research on all art objects under consideration for the OPC collection, either through gift or purchase, and serve on the staff Collections Committee.
  • Effectively curating and managing all approved curatorial projects to ensure that they meet high levels of quality and are delivered on time and on budget.
  • Alongside the Museum Director, Deputy Director, and the Associate Curator for Collections, working to build meaningful partnerships with community organizations and peer institutions locally, nationally, and internationally. 
  • Representing the Obama Foundation and the OPC for external communications about the Museum’s curatorial program. 
  • Developing, in consultation with the Deputy Museum Director and the Development Team, an Arts Funding Plan to raise funds to support the inaugural art installations and ongoing arts programming at the OPC.
  • Coordinating with the Foundation’s communications team on all press materials and announcements related to art projects.
  • Participating in art-related development activities, as well as overall institutional advancement of the Obama Foundation and the OPC.

Qualifications

  • Exceptional project manager: effectively backwards plans long-term projects, investing, communicating with, and managing others to achieve objectives and meet deadlines
  • Exceptional communication skills, both verbal and written, for a general audience
  • Skilled at using presentation software (both Google Slides and PowerPoint) and word processing tools (both Google Docs and Microsoft Word) to convey a story in a concise yet high-impact way
  • A working knowledge of contemporary art and social practice, as well as an understanding of interdisciplinary cultural production, is required. An advanced degree in the arts is preferred
  • A minimum of five (5) years of curatorial experience, or the equivalent, is required. Experience with public art is a plus
  • Committed to our mission of inspiring, empowering, and connecting people to change their world

Equal Opportunity Employer

The Foundation is committed to creating a diverse work environment and is proud to be an equal opportunity employer. The Foundation does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability, parental status, veteran status, or any other protected status under applicable laws. We encourage individuals of all backgrounds to apply. If you are a qualified candidate with a disability, please e-mail us at [email protected] if you require a reasonable accommodation to complete this application.

About Obama Foundation

The Obama Foundation was established in January 2014 to carry on the great, unfinished project of renewal and global progress. Officially established as an operating, 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, the Foundation is governed by a volunteer board of directors chaired by civic leader Martin Nesbitt. In the near future, the Foundation will oversee the design and construction of the Obama Presidential Center to be designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien Architects | Partners and Interactive Design Architects in Jackson Park on the South Side of Chicago. When it’s complete, the Center will include a library holding the Presidential archives, a museum focusing on the Obama Presidency and issues of our time, and space for ongoing programs and initiatives that advance our mission.

Obama Foundation

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